Echoes from the past
Repression in the Uyghur region now and then
in The Xinjiang emergency
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While many have seen echoes of the Cultural Revolution (1966–76) in the repression in today’s Xinjiang, this chapter argues that the more apt analogy to understand today’s campaign, and imagine an end to it, can be found in a better understanding of the 1957 Anti-Rightist Campaign of 1957. The chapter demonstrates that there are three critical parallels with the Anti-Rightist Campaign. First, the Anti-Rightist Campaign was, just like today’s, completely controlled by the party and the government. Second, ethnicity clearly played a major role in the implementation of the Anti-Rightist Campaign in Xinjiang, morphing into a campaign against ‘local nationalism’ that primarily targeted Uyghur cadres and intellectuals. Today, too, Uyghur elites have been targeted for repression with over four hundred Uyghur intellectuals, artists, and businesspeople having been arrested and taken to camps and prisons, accused of being ‘two-faced’ and fomenting separatist ideas. Finally, after the ‘anti-local nationalism’ campaign in Xinjiang ended, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) did not have to disavow its actions despite its disastrous consequences. The chapter concludes that a similar outcome may in fact take place with respect to the ‘re-education’ campaign in contemporary Xinjiang: once the current leadership of the CCP concludes that ‘re-education’ has served its purposes there is little to suggest that it will face the consequences of even a symbolic reckoning with the injustices imposed on the Uyghur people.

The Xinjiang emergency

Exploring the causes and consequences of China’s mass detention of Uyghurs

Editor: Michael Clarke


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